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Red Cross Southern Africa HIV/AIDS Fund Running Out of Money

The Red Cross says funds for its AIDS programs in southern Africa are due to run out in three months. Officials made the announcement in South Africa as they launched what they said was the single largest appeal for funds in Red Cross history.

The Regional Red Cross Representative, Francoise Le Goff, explained that the funding cycle for HIV/AIDS programs in southern Africa normally should last until the end of next year.

"However, we have not covered this budget yet and the money we have will only last until January 2007. We need to bridge the gap so we need to launch this appeal now," Le Goff said.

She said 100,000 HIV victims aided by the Red Cross and its network of 200,000 volunteers in southern Africa would be threatened by any shortfall of funds.

The organization appealed for $300 million, its largest appeal ever, in order to expand its programs by four times during the next five years.

The Red Cross Special Representative for HIV/AIDS, Mukesh Kapila, explained why the appeal was launched in southern Africa.

"We are here because this is the world capital of the worldwide epidemic of HIV and AIDS and it is not something to be proud of," Kapila said.

He noted that southern Africa, which is home to less than four percent of the world's people, is burdened with one-third of the world's HIV victims, 12 million people. Each year one million people die and one million new victims are infected.

He added that the AIDS epidemic has lowered life expectancy to below 40 years in some countries and has orphaned nearly five million children.

Officials say the epidemic has affected societies to such an extent that the Red Cross needs to expand its programs to entire communities. Such programs would include help for AIDS orphans, nutrition, water and sanitation projects and control of HIV-associated diseases like tuberculosis and malaria.

The head of South Africa's Red Cross, Mandissa Kalako-Williams, noted that southern Africa's Red Cross societies earlier this year (March) made a commitment to scale up their efforts.

"There is no greater priority for all the Red Cross societies in this region than responding to the great needs in our communities which are created by this disaster, a disaster as devastating as any other that the Red Cross responds to across the world," Kalako-Williams says.

Officials criticized the world community for failing to adequately address a pandemic that was predicted decades ago. They blamed what they called the broken promises partly on conditions imposed by donor institutions, poor delivery systems of local governments and expensive bureaucracies among the numerous organizations that emerged to address the plague.